U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Alexander Vershbow, says the U.S.-South Korea alliance needs to go beyond its original purpose, the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. "In the future, our alliance should become a force for peace and stability in Northeast Asia and around the world," he said.
Speaking at a Korea Foundation forum in Seoul, Ambassador Vershbow said the vision of an expanded global role for South Korea is shared by President Lee Myung-bak and broadly held in Korean society. "Korea has resources and knowledge to offer where they are needed and is a tremendous role model for the developing world," he said.
Ambassador Vershbow said the U.S.-South Korea partnership should accept such global challenges as climate change, clean energy, food security, expanded world trade, disease control, and human rights.
The U.S. and South Korea are founding members of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Change and have worked together for the development and transfer of efficient energy technology. The South Korean government has also undertaken some important initiatives, including the establishment of an "East Asia Climate Partnership" to help transfer resources and technologies to developing countries. "Domestically," said Mr. Vershbow, "Korea is adopting a policy on climate change that is similar to U.S. domestic policy – a comprehensive approach for reducing CO2 emissions, developing new technologies, and shifting to renewable energy production and consumption, such as hydrogen cars."
High energy prices and climate change have a potentially devastating impact on developing countries. To help ensure a stable food supply, the world needs to dispense with market-distorting agricultural subsidies and other barriers to agricultural trade, said Ambassador Vershbow. The U.S., he said, remains committed to the World Trade Organization's Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. "Korea has at times been very useful in the Doha Round," he said, "but we all need to work together to find the way forward."
South Korea and the U.S. have an interest in promoting human rights. At their recent summit meeting, President George Bush and President Lee Myung-bak reaffirmed their commitments to improving the human rights situation in North Korea.
An expanded international role for South Korea is in the interest of the U.S., of South Korea, and of the world.